Will Good Looks Get You the Job?

Published: January 27th 2011
in News » World

Female jealousy by recruiters makes it more difficult for attractive women to find jobs, according to new research.

Good looks won't necessarily help you to land an interview and may even keep you from being considered for a job, according to new research from Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU).


In their new working paper, "Are Good-Looking People More Employable?" two BGU economics researchers show that a double standard exists between good looks as a positive factor in men vs. women.


"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper to explore beauty discrimination in the hiring process of an actual labor market rather than a laboratory market or hypothetical decision scenario," says Dr. Bradley Ruffle, researcher and professor in the university's department of economics.


The practice of including a head shot on a CV (résumé) is rare in North America, Australia and the UK, but in Israel it's considered a reasonable option, Ruffle explains. "This fact makes Israel an opportune location to explore the effect of a picture and its attractiveness - or lack thereof - on the likelihood of being invited for a job interview."


Ruffle oversaw a study where researchers sent 5,312 pairs of CVs to 2,656 advertised job openings in Israel. In each pair, one CV had no picture attached while the second, nearly identical CV included a photo of an attractive man or woman or a plain-looking man or woman.


Hotties or notties?


Overall, the response rate was 14.5 percent. The résumés of "attractive" males received a 19.9 percent response rate, nearly 50% higher than that of "plain" males' (13.7%) and more than twice the 9.2% response rate of no-picture males.


"It follows that an attractive male needs to send, on average, five CVs in order to obtain one response, whereas a plain-looking male needs to send 11 for a single response," says Ze'ev Shtudiner, co-researcher and doctoral candidate at BGU.


However, perhaps surprisingly, "attractive" women are called in for an interview less often than both "plain" women and women who had no photo on their résumé. No-picture females had the highest response rate, 22% higher than homely females and 30% higher than good-looking females.


These findings "contradict current psychology and organizational behavior literature on beauty that associate attractiveness, male and female alike, with almost every conceivable positive trait and disposition," the researchers say.


It could well be that, regardless of the way they look, women are better off omitting their photograph from a CV since it seems to decrease their chances of securing a job interview by 20 to 30%.


Jealous females rule


However, the number of attractive women subjected to discrimination varied according to whom was screening the CVs, the research shows. When the résumés were sent to employment agencies, attractive female candidates fared no worse than plain candidates and only slightly worse than no-picture females.


But when the potential employer received the CV directly, attractive females received a response rate of about half that of plain and no-picture women. The researchers guessed that this difference was likely due to the high number of women in corporate human resources positions.


To verify their hypothesis, they conducted a post-experiment survey in which they called the person responsible for screening candidates. That person turned out to be female in 24 of the 25 of the companies they interviewed. Moreover, these woman were young (ranging in age from 23 to 34) and typically single (67%) - characteristics more likely to be associated with a jealous response when confronted with a young, attractive competitor in the workplace.


"Indeed, the evidence points to female jealousy of attractive women in the workplace as a primary reason for their penalization in recruitment," Ruffle concludes.


This article first appeared on Israel21c and is reprinted with permission.

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